When Barbara Elia began her career, no one was particularly thrilled about working in commercial real estate – and neither was she.
“I was working at a small newspaper in Burlington, and I was an econ major,” she said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn’t that.”
While looking for her next step, she found a job at Cushman & Wakefield in the research office, and took the position.
“Even then, I didn’t think I would ever do commercial real estate,” she recalled. “These days, people coming into the industry are very excited about it, but back then, it wasn’t necessarily the first career path people thought of. It wasn’t my game plan, but it’s been great.”
After a five-year stint at C&W in New York City in her mid-20s – “the best time to live in New York, without a doubt” – Elia came back to Boston and took a position with Fallon, Hines & O’Connor.
It was “a small and nimble firm, and employees were encouraged to learn and challenge themselves,” she said. “So I expanded my skill set, and it snowballed.”
Born and raised in Winchester, she now lives in Lexington. Through mergers, acquisitions and many name changes, she has been working with generally the same team for nearly two decades. Her snowballed skill set now includes leading a team that manages Cassidy Turley FHO’s administration, portfolio management, research and marketing functions.
“I’ve had lots of titles and lots of business cards, but it’s been the same group of wonderful people for 18 years,” she said.
‘Face Of The Firm’
When she joined FHO Partners, the predecessor to Cassidy Turley FHO, she “created one of the most robust client service platforms in the New England region,” said Linda McDonough, senior vice president of marketing at Cassidy Turley. She “created and now leads a 10-person group of professionals that manage the firm’s lease administration, portfolio management, research and marketing functions.”
For many clients, Elia and her team are “the true face of the firm,” McDonough added. “The research function provides all of the firm’s clients with up-to-date insights on macro and micro trends in the local and national markets.”
While brokers are frequently in touch with clients, it is Elia and her team’s “continuing client connection that allows the business to grow and prosper,” she said. “Elia’s work builds and strengthens customer relationships due to the frequency of her client contact, achievement of bottom line savings and mitigation of risk.”
From the beginning of her career, other women mentored Elia, a process she has never forgotten or forsaken. She is strongly involved with the Women’s Leadership Council, an alumni group at Trinity College, where she received her bachelor’s degree, that supports and promotes young women as they prepare to enter the business world. She also volunteers at the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury, where she tutors students, and has rallied the Cassidy Turley FHO office to donate money, supplies and additional tutoring support to the school’s more than 250 students.
“I’ve had a fairly fluid career, and worked with some really great, talented people,” she said, “and that has made all the difference.”